There’s somebody you spend at least 40 hours per week with. Somebody who knows your major career ambitions and your biggest pet peeves. Somebody you trust. Somebody who encourages you.
Who am I describing? Well, it’s your boss.
There’s a lot to be said for having a close relationship with your boss. However, it also introduces some complexity in terms of setting necessary boundaries.
Can you be friends with your boss? Should you? And if so, how can you pull that off without making things awkward or confusing?
It’s not always so straightforward, so we’ve pulled together some do’s and don’ts for successfully navigating a friendship with your boss.
Do Have a Conversation About Ground Rules
Perhaps one of your closest colleagues was promoted and now you’re her direct report. Or, maybe you and your new supervisor just have personalities that click and a friendship seems totally natural.
Regardless of the specifics of your situation, maintaining a friendship with your superior is complex — for both of you. That’s why it’s important that you openly communicate about boundaries and expectations.
For example, are you both more comfortable reserving personal conversations for outside of the office? Will you interact on social media, or does that just make things even more complicated?
There’s no real rulebook here, so it all comes down to what works best for you and your manager. Having this conversation might seem a little formal or awkward, but making the effort to address these aspects upfront can actually save a lot of hassle (and misunderstandings!) down the line.
Don’t Use This as Your Opportunity to Vent
If you have a close relationship with your manager, you’re undoubtedly going to feel comfortable confiding in him or her.
But take this as your warning: this still doesn’t give you permission to bring them into office gossip, complain about your colleagues, or generally use that bond to stir the pot at work.
Tread carefully about what you’re sharing with your boss in regards to your other work relationships, challenges, and triumphs. After all, they are still an authority figure — and they’re going to need to respond to that information accordingly.
Do Maintain Professionalism in the Office
Perhaps you and your boss are as close as can be outside of the office — that’s great! But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t matter during normal working hours. When you’re in the four walls of your office, you’re still a subordinate — and not a friend.
That means you still need to follow your boss’ directions, take their feedback seriously, and generally display respect and professionalism in all of your interactions.
Failing to do so not only makes you look bad, but it can also undermine your manager’s authority with all of your other colleagues. If you don’t have to treat your boss with respect, why should anyone else?
Don’t Overshare About Super Personal Issues
Of course, when you’re outside of the office, your conversations don’t all need to be strictly professional and work-related. Nobody’s saying that you can only talk about that month’s sales reports over drinks and appetizers.
However, you do still need to be conscious about how much you’re sharing with your boss — especially when it comes to personal details that could potentially impact your reputation in the office. That’s one of the biggest things that makes this dynamic so tricky.
If you ever have the nagging feeling that something isn’t appropriate to be shared with your direct work supervisor, it’s better to keep your lips zipped. Oh, and without a doubt, it’s usually smart to avoid getting sloppy drunk in front of your manager — even if those bottomless margaritas are really flowing at happy hour.
Do Rely on Your Boss for Support
Ideally, your manager should be your greatest ally in the office. They should be the one to push you to develop your skills and chase your biggest career goals. They should advocate for you when a problem comes up.
That concept holds true whether your boss is someone you consider a friend or not (at least, it should!).
It’s important that you trust them, and always feel comfortable coming to them with all of your career-related challenges and ambitions.
Don’t Expect Special Treatment
While your boss should be someone you can rely and depend on — friendship or no friendship — that doesn’t mean a close bond is something that you should leverage for favorable treatment.
There’s little that’s more frustrating than obvious favoritism, which means your supervisor is going to need to make a conscious effort to treat you the same as all of your other colleagues.
That can feel strange — especially when reprimands or constructive criticism are necessary. But, it’s also an important step to take to ensure that your friendship isn’t hindering either of your reputations in the office.
Do Strengthen That Relationship
Can a friendship with your boss be complicated? Absolutely. However, that doesn’t mean it should be avoided at all costs.
In fact, sharing a close bond with your manager can be a really positive thing — provided you’re willing to dedicate the energy and effort into making sure that it doesn’t negatively impact anyone else.
Don’t beat yourself up over having a close bond with your supervisor and invest the energy to make the most of that relationship. Most weeks, you spend more time with your colleagues and supervisors than you do with anyone else, so a lot of the times a friendship is unavoidable.
Don’t Rub It in Everyone’s Faces
With that said, not everybody on your team will share a similar relationship with your manager. That means you need to be careful not to flaunt your friendship all over the office.
That means no impromptu closed-door meetings or bragging about your after-work activities all over social media.
One of the best ways to avoid seeming like an untouchable clique is to be inclusive and bring other people you work with into the fold.
Invite them to grab lunch with you, or plan a team-wide happy hour — rather than heading out for drinks with only your boss. Doing so demonstrates that you’re eager to share a positive bond with everyone, and not just the person who signs your paychecks.
Not that long ago, the very idea of being friends with your work supervisor would’ve seemed strictly off limits, but things are quickly changing. In fact, a recent survey of 3,000 workers found that 68 percent of respondents have their boss’ phone number, and nearly a quarter have hung out with their boss socially.
While a friendship with your manager is no longer considered an immediate faux pas, there are still some unspoken rules to follow. Abiding by these do’s and don’ts will ensure that close relationship doesn’t hinder either of you in the office.